Sarzana Antique Fair

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Every year in August I wait for it…in Sarzana there’s the most wonderful event, the Sarzana Antiques Fair. Sarzana is about a 40 minute drive from our house in the Lunigiana. Sarazana is a quaint medieval town 20 minutes inland from the sea, right before you get to Cararra where the marble is from. Complete with a citadel and duomo, it’s our region’s fun little secret hipster haven. It’s also virtually unknown by tourists. In fact I cringe a little bit letting you all in on my secret happy place. It’s chocked-full of artisan clothing boutiques and antique stores, yummy hip restaurants, and the most charming little bakery/tearoom, Melissa’s (Ill be writing about it in the next blog post, so you will want to come back, and read about it this Thursday). There’s even a hipster barber shop.

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This year I went twice. Once to scout it out. I found a charming hand painted terracotta urn that I have proudly displayed in our front entry. I headed back to find some pieces for the guest quarters and kitchen, and a trunk for the master bedroom.

The stalls under the brightly lit passageways always make me smile. Striped umbrellas and trillions of trinkets catch your eye. It always makes me a little dizzy with anticipation. Oh, and it’s held at night which is a stroke of genius since the August heat can bring upwards of 100 degrees in the shade. It’s the perfect time to have an aperitivo and people watching at the fair is an added plus.

All summer long there are wonderful antiques markets all around the region, but this once-a-year fair is the one I wait for. Now that I have let you in on my little secret, you should think about visiting our region inland from the Riviera. Thirty minutes from the very popular and incredibly over-crowed over-marketed Cinqueterra, there is a treasure trove of quaint towns and beautiful views, amazing hikes and unexpected local cuisine. Adventure awaits you off the beaten path. Start with Sarzana; you won’t be disappointed. You’re welcome. xx

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House Updates, an Olive Centric Workshop, and More: It’s the Top 4

4 for July

As you’ve probably noticed, July in Italy has been full. Whether we’ve been hosting workshops in the studio, enjoying wine from the vineyard, or gearing up for fall workshops, this has been an awesome month.

Each month, I bring you a round-up of the best blog posts. The idea is that you can see the best of the AJS blog all in one place. Find the top 4 July below!

Italian House Updates

Oh, and We have a Vineyard 

Announcing our Olive-Centric Workshop

Strictly Styling Workshop Recap

xx Annette

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My Life in Photos, July

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. We drank wine from our vineyard. We learned invaluable cooking tips from Sif.

Needless to say, it’s been busy!

Here’s a look at everything that has been going on. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more shots of Italy and on the style+photo feed on Instagram for more shots of our workshops and The Fortress.

xx Annette

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Happy Friday! When your vintner drops off your bottles with your label now I feel like a vineyard owner!

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Outdoor movies on the terrace Fridays are the best.

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Sunday morning coffee gram; this view never gets old!

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Prop shopping!

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

We’ve been experiencing an incredible workshop strictly styling workshop with Sarah Dorio as our photographer.

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Okay, so this is the best day ever!!!!

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Vineyard view last night we drank wine in our vineyard.

What can I say? July has been a whirlwind. We hosted not one, but two style+photo workshops at The Fortress. Here's a look at everything!

Lunch with Sif Orellana; she’s extraordinary. It’s been pure magic!

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Oh, and we have a vineyard…Lunigiana, Italy

our wine

I’ve been known to bury the lede as they say…when we bought La Fortezza, I was so enamored with the house/fortress that I forgot about the property itself. So, here it is: we have a vineyard. It’s 5 acres on the upper edge of the property. Obviously Frank and I know nothing about making wine. Hell, Frank does not ever drink the stuff (he’s a beer guy).

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The vineyard was in bad shape about 5 years ago. The brothers that owned the property were approached by a local winemaker, Manolo (I know perfect name, right?). He was in the process of setting up his wine business. He’s a former teacher, and he and his family wanted to launch their own label. It’s not uncommon here to work many smaller vineyards to produce a label, and that is exactly how he works. You need a ton of acres to produce wine, so working 10 smaller vineyards in the region makes perfect sense. It’s a win win for us, too because we have no interest in working the land, not to mention we don’t have a stitch of knowledge. It is the perfect accidental hobby. No sweat…just vino delivered once a month. He pays rent in wine, and we will take it. For now, it’s the perfect arrangement. We feel very lucky. Manolo was an unknown perk.

Manolo has vineyards all around the area. He and his family cultivate, rent vineyards, and make both red and white wines, although this year he will put up a batch of Rose just for the Joseph label. It’s a win win because he came with the house as part of the deal. Now I am busting at the seams with wine. Some of you have asked if you can purchase our wine. Since this is something new for us, right now it’s our own private stock. However who knows?! Down the road, we may become a wine brand, but for now our workshop attendees and guests will enjoy the fruits of the land at every meal. So if you want to partake, you may just need to join us here for a workshop or retreat in the fall or later next year.

Levi and Frank and Syd in the vineyard

In the meantime our son Levi, a recent business school graduate, has a keen interest in developing our wine label, so who knows? It may become the new family business. It’s all about generations in Italy after all…

I would like to thank my dear friend Penny for the cool label design. We love it. xx

We have a vineyard! I am still pinching myself… cin cin xx

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chestnut honey, mountain views, secrets things and places, and other sweet things about living in the Italian countryside

The only way to see Italy is with an Italian, or someone that has lived here for many years. We are still discovering secrets about Italy everyday.

As most of you know, Frank and I have lived in Italy now for over 15 years, enjoying our summers here with family and friends. You have also heard me say that Italy is like an onion. Most tourists only scratch the surface, so when reading all these travel guides, keep in mind the best stuff (just like the olive oil) is reserved for Italians.

The only way to see Italy is to see it with an Italian, or someone that has lived here for many years. We are still discovering secrets about Italy everyday. It’s actually one of the many things I love about Italians. Unlike Americans, Italians are not over-sharers. In Italy you have to earn trust, and then the world opens up to you like an exotic flower. The treasures here are endless, and the rewards of putting your time in will be the exquisite payback for your patience. Finally, right about now, I am starting to feel like I have a few Italian secrets of my own to share. It only took 25 years, LOL.

We lived on the Italian Riviera for 15 years, and now we are living the countryside in a very unknown region called Lunigiana. We live on 27 acres with a working vineyard and giant ancient fortress that has kept me on my toes for just about a year.

I will say country life agrees with me, and I can see growing older here watching the changing seasons in mountain range that is our view. The life is slower here, the people are authentic and friendly which is a big difference from living in a bustling vacation destination like Alassio where people only appear each summer.

People here stop by and drop off eggs from their chickens, chestnut honey from their bees, freshly jarred preserves from their fruit orchards, and olive oil from last fall’s harvest. It’s pretty much what I expected in my fantasies, but the reality is so much richer.

Everyone eats local here. Hell, we eat out of our garden: lettuce, eggplant, zucchinis and herbs. Tomatoes abound; they literally sprung out of the earth as soon as we planted them. We have sour cherries and figs, and our plum trees and grape vines are maturing as well. Unlike in the US, in the country here in Italy, it’s no big thing to eat off the land everyday. So yes, I love it. Milk comes from the cows and goats up the mountain, and beef comes from the steers down in the valley. You can smell the steers as you drive by the butcher/slaughter house everyday.

One of the things that surprised me was that when we lived in Alassio, there was so much pressure to dress in the latest fashion and look presentable everyday. I would never go out on the streets without the “right” look. Here it is easy, and the feeling of fashion pressure is gone. It’s more laid back and therefore much more livable. I have slowed down. Enjoying nature is something that is a daily routine. What’s in my closet is an after thought.

I will continue to write about my experiences here in the Italian countryside this summer.

As you know, I am in the middle writing a book of our story here in Italia.

Stay tuned for more updates, and for now I will relish all the gifts from my surroundings, the people that live here, and all the secrets Italy has to show me. The secrets I have patiently waited for.

ciao xx

Photo credit: Frank Joseph MD

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